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What Do Olives Taste Like? Discover Their Flavor Here

Olives are a staple in many Italian and Mediterranean dishes. Are you wondering: ”what do olives taste like?” You might had them in your pizza or salad. Keep reading to discover what these fruits taste like and how to use them in cooking.

bowl filled with green olives.

What Are Olives?

Olive, or Olea europaea, is a stone fruit that grows on an olive tree. Other stone fruits include mangoes, peaches, apricots, and dates. They all have large pits that house a single seed. 

Olives vary in color, depending on the variety and their maturity. Some are green, while some are black or purple.

They are native to the Mediterranean, where most olives are grown to make olive oil. Olive oil is a key component of the region’s healthy diet. 

What Do Olives Taste Like?

So, what do olives taste like? First things first, olives contain oleuropein. This compound forms part of their defense mechanism. The compound is intensely bitter, which protects olives from fruit-eating animals. 

If you are to ask, “What does raw olive taste like?” they are unpleasant. Fresh olives taste really bitter. The canned olives we see on store shelves are cured to make them taste better. Many years ago, people prepared raw olives for eating by soaking them in water. 

Oleuropein is water-soluble, so this process makes the compound leech out in the water. This method proved to be time-consuming. Over time, people used salt to make a brine and cure the olives faster. Eventually, it was discovered that adding lye to the solution yielded the fastest results. To this day, people still use lye to make olives taste good.

The curing process leaves the olive with its natural flavor. They can be mildly sweet or tangy, depending on the variety. Some have a spicy taste, while others have a more buttery flavor.

Most store-bought olives are salty. The ingredients in the curing solution can also change the flavor of olives.

What Do Green Olives Taste Like?

If you pick an olive before it is ripe, you’ll have your hands on a green olive. As mentioned, the taste of olives varies per variety. So, what do green olives taste like? 

These unripe green olives are bitter. Once cured, these olives taste tangy and a bit nutty. The salt brine used to cure them makes these unripe olives taste salty. 

How To Use Green Olives in Cooking

Green olives are useful in many recipes. You can use them in dishes like pizza, salads, and pasta. You can also coat them with breading and fry them for a quick snack. 

Green olives are the main ingredient in tapenade. It is a sauce or paste made of pureed olives, capers, anchovies, and lemon juice. You may use tapenade as a dip, spread, or condiment. 

What Do Black Olives Taste Like?

Now that we’ve discussed what green olives taste like let us talk about black olives. Black olive is a ripe olive. When you leave them to ripen on the tree, they accumulate enough anthocyanins to turn into a dark color. 

Some black olives, though, are green olives cured with a special solution. This process turns them black without having to ripen on the tree.

So, what do black olives taste like? Like green olives, the black ones are also incredibly bitter when raw. Once processed, black olives taste mildly sweet with fruity notes. Some even claim to get floral hints.

For this reason, more people enjoy eating black olives than green ones. 

How To Use Black Olives in Cooking

You can use black olives interchangeably with green olives. They taste equally good in pasta, pizza, and salads.

You may also use them in a tapenade recipe. 

What Do Kalamata Olives Taste Like?

Kalamata olives are deep purple olives that have a distinct almond shape. They are among the most popular olives used today.

Originating from Greece, these are olives cured in brine and wine or vinegar. Often, cooks would add lemon slices to the mix. This unique solution gives them a smoky and slightly fruity flavor profile. 

How To Use Kalamata Olives in Cooking

Kalamata olives are great in many recipes. You can try them:

  • on pizzas
  • salads
  • pasta sauces
  • pair with a cheese board and wine

Other Types of Olives

There are many other types of olives. Aside from green and black olives, there are Manzanilla olives and Picholine olives. Here are some of the other varieties:

Gaeta Olives

Gaeta olives hail from Italy. They have a fruity taste accompanied by a tart flavor. Naturally, Gaeta olives will have a salty taste due to their salt brine. 

Leccino Olives

Also from Italy, Leccino olives have a distinct spicy flavor. Even after curing, these olives still keep a subtly bitter taste. The taste of these dark-hued olives is a pleasant mix of salty, spicy, and bitter flavors.

Lucques Olives

Hailing from France, Lucques olives are kidney-shaped. They keep a green color even when ripe. As for the taste, they are nutty and sweet. Some also describe their flavor as buttery and meaty. 

Cerignola Olives

Cerignola olives are green Italian olives distinguished for their large size. They taste mild, meaty, and buttery. 

Their large size makes them ideal for stuffing. You may come across bright red olive labeled Cerignola. They’re not fake; they’re the same olives dyed with artificial coloring. 

Castelvetrano Olives

Still from Italy, Castelvetrano olives have a crisp, sweet, and buttery taste. These flavors go well with cheese, especially Feta cheese. have them together with a glass of wine and taste for yourself. 

Verdial Olives

Verdial olives come from Spain and stay green even when ripe. They are pleasant-tasting olives that have a spicy and bitter flavor. 

Halkidiki Olives

These Greek olives are also known as “donkey olives” for their big size. Unlike other olives, a ripe Halkidiki olive turns yellow. When brined, these olives develop a spicy flavor that melds well with their fruity taste. 

Beldi Olives

Beldi olives come from Morroco. The dry-curing process gives these olives an intense spicy flavor and chewy texture. 

White Olives

White olives of Malta are rare because they are not commercially grown. They taste peppery and sweet. But since they lack anthocyanins that give olives a dark color, they are not as nutritious. 

Alfonso Olives

Alfonso olives are from Chile. They are known for their lovely purple hue and robust flavor. They taste bitter and sour, but olive connoisseurs find them fascinating. 

Benefits of Eating Olives

Olives contain calcium, iron, and copper, which are nutrients beneficial to the body. Trace amounts of selenium and zinc are also present in these fruits. They also have Vitamin E, which promotes better skin health.

Black olives are rich in anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants. Take note that olives are high in sodium due to the curing process. They are also high in fat. 

How to Store Olives Properly?

To store olives properly, you should keep them submerged in the brine. Store them in jars placed in a cool and dry area.

Why Do Some People Don’t Like Olives?

The flavor and the curing process do not appeal to everyone. Some people don’t like olives because they are bitter and sour. The curing process helps to reduce the bitter flavor; it also makes the fruits salty. 


What do olives taste like? When raw, they are so bitter that they are almost inedible. Olives are cured in brine and treated with lye to make them more palatable. 

As a result, most olives you’ll get from grocery stores are salty. Yet, depending on the variety, they can also have buttery, tangy, sweet, or spicy flavors.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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